The 4th Annual Sabroso taco, craft beer and music festival was a huge hit. It sold out two weeks in advance (which is untypical of most beer festivals – especially in Orange County) and I had a bunch of people asking me if I could get them tickets last minute. Besides from always killing it in the taco and beer game, for the music they booked some heavy-hitters footing the bill with the likes of: Offspring, Sum 41, Lit, Unwritten Law, Rival Sons, and Metalachi to name a few. The event changed locations this year and was located at Doheny State Beach, and thus was able to accommodate a swelled crowd of over 8,500 people.

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I was asked to be a judge of all the tacos again this year, this time besides the loveable Frosty from KLOS (yes, that Frosty from Fosty, Heidi and Frank) and FoodBeast. It was really cool to be able to meet Frosty because I’ve listened to their show on and off for years, since they were on the indie station over 10 years ago. He was so nice! We were tasked with judging over 21 tacos (up from the 16 last year) and I think this was the best year yet! There was so many creative and interesting taco choices, it was such a fun time.

Onto the tacos! Let’s jump in. I had documented what was in each taco on my phone and my tasting notes, and would you know it – my phone took a dump so this is all from memory.

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This was the first taco. It was blind judging so I have no idea who made what, but this taco was good. It had decent heat, but was overall a bit soft. Besides the carrots, it needed more crunch!

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This taco was beautiful – just look at all that color! It had good flavor, I just was frustrated by the meat, it was kinda chewy and stringy – and that made it harder to eat. I liked the addition of the bell peppers, the texture overall was really good.

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I wasn’t a big fan of this one – the green apples made it pretty sour. Plus – if you guys read my last year’s post – I am not a fan of the crumbled cheese. Not this taco’s fault. It had way too much cabbage for me, but I liked the meat! It was slow-cooked and juicy.

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This taco was pretty basic – it had nothing too remarkable. It was not terrible and not amazing, it was like someone on top chef who wanted to play it safe.

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WTF taco. It was hard to get past all the stuff on top to the fish buried under there. Also, the tomatoes had no business being on this, was it salsa or just fresh tomatoes? You confuse me, taco.

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I’m pretty sure this was the teriyaki beef taco, and it was interesting. It was a one-degree separation from being a Kogi-inspired masterpiece but it was missing something. Kimchi maybe? The meet was super flavorful with sweet notes, it was tender, and the heat from the sriracha balanced it out.

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Ok – so I know I said the other taco had way too much on it, and this one looks crazy as well – but this worked in a strange way. If you move the lime and sauce and veggies, it’s just a true street taco, and that green sauce was on fire. Where can I get that green sauce?!

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This was not for me, stringy meat and the dreaded cojita cheese, it was destined for failure on my palate. I wasn’t a fan – but that’s just my taste – I am sure my husband would’ve loved this cuz it was a meat bonanza. It could’ve also used a bit more brightness in color with some fresh herbs or something!

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Another taco that could’ve done without the added tomotes, but it was not terrible. I liked the red cabbage addition, and the tortilla was nice and fluffy with a nice chew to it.

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I normally don’t eat octopus, but I’ve had it a few times so I wasn’t terribly afraid to dive into this taco. It was served poke style with marinated octopus. It was successful for my tastes, mainly because it was one-note with everything tasting more like the marinade and the mushy sauce on the bottom was grey and unappetizing. Points for originality and color!

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This taco was my second favorite of the day, despite the addition of the crumbled cheese. The meat was enveloped by this fruity (I think pineapple) sauce that was spicy as hell while also being sweet. It invaded my tongue and I was in love. Well done!

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This was a very strange mash-up with the breaded chicken and taco marriage, but it was oddly satisfying. I wish it had something about it that was spicy, but I’d eat it again.

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Oh man, this might have been my least favorite. It had the makings of a good taco and I normally love lobster either in a po’ boy or on top of a sushi roll covered in sauce, but this was just unsuccessful. It was kinda warm when I had it – which I’m sure the chefs didn’t intend, but it was slimy.  Also the tortilla was greasy and tasted burnt.

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THIS TACO WAS AMAZING! Not only did it give me major nostalgia to when I went to the Squeeze In restaurant in Sacramento and had the cheese skirt burger (that’s cooked with the crunchy melted cheese around the burger) but it was such an original surprise. Under the sauce was delicious chorizo and tater tots. This taco killed it in all the categories: taste, appearance, creativity. I found out later this was from Mess Hall Canteen because they won First Place!

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Another taco that suffered by putting too much on it. I wish they added a bit less salsa on top because it was almost like having soup!

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The meat was marinated and had a lot of flavor but I wish it had a bit more acid. It was tasty enough, I’d try it again.

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I love crispy shrimp, so this was one I liked. The shrimp flavor was there, and the red cabbage was a nice touch.

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The pineapple was a strange addition, it reacted with the onions in a not-so-pleasant mouthfeel. The meat was tasty, and that green salsa was pretty bomb.

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I wasn’t a fan of this one. The duck was pretty fatty and the one lone clementine slice was kinda weird. I liked the daikon slices though!

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I liked this one! It had some really interesting flavors between the slow-cooked and shredded meat and the herbs on top, it had a lot of good stuff in there.

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This taco took a risky move making sweet potato fritters because some of us don’t like sweet potatoes. I am one of those people.

After all the judging was said and done, it turns out there was a tie for second and third place, so we had to taste two more tacos to determine a winner. Here was the second round tacos:

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I love falafel! I could eat falafel every day, and this was damn good falafel. It was crunchy, the peppers added spice, the tzatziki sauce added a tangy cool factor, and the avocados lended a smooth luxurious mouthfeel. It was damn good.

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This was another killer taco. The kimchi was spicy and tangy and crunchy, and the beef was thinly chopped and bursting with flavor. It was really hard to choose between these tacos, but the falafel won it by 1 point for me mainly because it had more overall flavor and texture that lasted on my palate.

Loaded with a veritable cornucopia of tacos in my stomach, I wondered into the crowd in search of beer. There was a bunch of tents set-up on the sand with several different breweries pouring together under the tents, so that’s where I spent most of my time. It was beautiful being by the beach, but the added winds were a new challenge. It was pretty funny to see all the ladies trying to keep their skirts down and hats on all day.

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The lucha libre was as fun as I remember, the ladies round was the best in my opinion. They were vicious! Overall it was a really fun event. It was well organized, on my end, but I did notice a few breweries without jockey boxes so they couldn’t pour… not sure what happened there. Besides that, there was plenty of delicious beer, giant water stations, and it was refreshing to finally have phone service at Sabroso (it’s normally in a dead zone)! They keep topping the previous year, so I can’t wait for next year to see what they come up with!

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